Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander will join the already-crowded field of candidates vying to replace outgoing Kansas City Mayor Sly James in 2019.
Last week, a Kander spokesperson told KCUR that Kander was "deciding how he can best serve." On Monday, Kander's camp confirmed the one-time U.S. Senate candidate will run for mayor.
Kander is a native of the Kansas City area and most recently served as Missouri's Secretary of State for a single four-year term from 2013-2017. Before that, he represented a part of Kansas City in the Missouri State House of Representatives beginning in 2009 and served in the U.S. Army.
Kander lost a hard-fought U.S. Senate race against incumbent Roy Blunt in 2016. But since then, he has raised his national profile by hosting political podcast and appearing frequently on cable news.
The 37-year-old Democrat joins a crowded mayoral race to replace Sly James dominated by Kansas City Council members. Yet, Kander's presence is already impacting the field.
After news of Kander's announcement broke, City Councilwoman Jolie Justus said she will withdraw from the mayoral race. Instead, she said she will focus on defending her 4th District Council seat and will support Kander for mayor.
"I am excited about this path right now because I know that it puts Kansas City first," Justus said. "There was a concern that I had that if I stayed in the race, it would put the city through a divisive election cycle, and I don't think that's something that would be helpful in the current state of politics or for our city."
City Councilman Quinton Lucas, who rolled out his campaign for mayor over the weekend, said he will continue his candidacy. Yet, he said he is dissapointed Justus will be dropping out, and Kander's announcement took him by surprise.
"I think the question will continue to be: 'why?'" Lucas said. "I do want to make sure that folks aren't just feeling like there's a big foot in the race and they need to move out of the way."
Kander and Lucas are part of a still crowded race to replace James, who was elected in 2011 and is term-limited.
Nicolas Telep is KCUR's morning news intern. You can follow him on Twitter @NDTelep.